17 Top Tips for Successfully Choosing, Hiring and Working with Tradespeople
Part 3 Working Well
Once the sourcing and checking has been done and work is to get underway, there are a few critical items to have in place or know about to make sure all of your initial leg-work has not been in vain. The items and activities in this section may happen smoothly (or not) whether you know much or anything about them or not. We suggest being proactive and informing yourself about each stage as far as possible and taking an active interest in progress of the job and don’t just ‘hope it will turn out okay’ and assume everything is in hand. No one has your best interests at heart like you do.
13. Contract. For a small job, request a written quote. If there’s any chance of a complication with the job and it needing extra work, ask the contractor to check with you before proceeding. A good contractor will do this anyway. For larger jobs, such as the construction of a deck, or home extension, a suitable contract is required. Contracts detail all items related to the job to be done, such as the pricing, and what’s included in the pricing, start and finish dates, cleaning – what level of cleaning and rubbish removal is included, what happens if anything is defective on the finished project, the payment schedule, what happens in the case of delays, and so on. The Master Builders Association cover contracts very thoroughly and gives a guide as to the type of standard contract agreement format to use for particular types of projects (e.g. swimming pool installation, carport or renovation) Visit the MBA website (www.masterbuilders.asn.au) and go to the Contracts tab for full details. Typically, a formal contract is required for projects greater than $3,300 in value. If you’ve chosen your contractor wisely, they will be fully familiar with these requirements and documents, but it is always advisable to educate yourself in these areas and not allow yourself to be led entirely by someone who has their best interests at heart and not necessarily yours! It’s definitely a case of ‘buyer beware’. Ignorance is no excuse. Be very wary of contractors who ask for payment up front or payment in cash only. A fixed price contract is the best type to have, so you know exactly what you are getting for how much.
14. Budget and Schedule. As well as getting the right work done to the specifications you set out, having your project completed for the amount of money you have and in the time period you have allowed for is critical. Schedule and budget are inextricably intertwined! Be very certain of how much money you have to spend before you start and double-check at the quoting and contract stages that you are getting everything that you need done at that price. It will cost more to add items on, or change your mind part-way through a project. Any changes will also add to how long it takes to complete the project and if the household is living in complete chaos (say, without a kitchen, or having the entire house tiled and so having to live a grandma’s) then adding to this scheduled time is not attractive. You may opt to do a part of the project yourself to save money – for example the painting – but don’t forget that your time is also money, and if the builder is going to do the painting in 2 days and you’ll take 10 days and need to buy all of the equipment, you may not be saving yourself very much. A common complaint from people having home renovations done by builders and contractors is having time over-runs and the team disappearing from the site for days on end and progress seeming to halt. Keep close contact with your builder or project supervisor about progress and schedule. Chances are, progress payments will be tied to stages of completion, particularly for larger projects such as building extensions and carport constructions.
15. Supervising. It is usual for a supervisor to be appointed to oversee the day-to-day running and progress of the project on-site, if the builder is not going to be doing it himself. A supervisor is required to be licensed to do so. Check in your State for the local requirements, and check with your builder/contractor who will be supervising on-site (them, or someone else?) and confirm that they are licensed. The supervisor will be the person who’ll see you first thing in the morning (before makeup and coffee) and who will spend a considerable amount of time around your house during the progress of the project, so you may want to know who they are and a bit about them.
16. Permits. What permits are required to carry out the project you are undertaking? Depending upon the type of project being carried out, whether a carport or shed construction, a swimming pool installation or internal remodelling (e.g. removing or building walls), various permits, approvals and /or certificates may be required. Replacing a bathroom or kitchen will not involve any applications or approvals, so long as no structural changes are being made to the house, but adding or removing walls, or adding on decks will most likely require approval and/or certification and an extension to the house most certainly will. Check in your local area for what is required. Your chosen builder/contractor will know what is required so ask them to explain it to you if you’re not familiar with the requirements and process – and then go and verify the details for yourself independently.
17. Check Details as they Progress. It’s okay to take a close interest in the job and its progress. You should not feel like you’re being a pest by checking to see what stage of completion has been reached and whether it has been done as required. If you don’t know how to read and understand construction plans, ask to have it described to you. Keep an eye out that you’re getting what you asked for – and contracted for. If you’ve chosen well at the ‘Successful Sourcing’ stage, this process should not be a problem. Perhaps stipulate up front that you wish to have regular update reports with the supervisor. At the contract stage it should be possible to assign a small sum of the contract price (say $1000) unpaid until you have checked off that each item has been completed to your satisfaction (within the bounds of the contract). Once the project is complete and the builder has completed all items as agreed, the final payment can be paid. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that you may be left with a few minor items not finished, the final payment not paid out to the builder and the money left in your pocket. If a builder is busy they may find it easier and more profitable to go onto the next project and forfeit that last $1000 than get an in-demand tradesman back on your job to finish off. Not common, but it has happened. Whether this happens or not, it’s wise to retain a small portion of the contract price for the purposes of getting your job completed before the team take off for the next project.
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